Who’s Got a Ticket to Ride?

With the number of vaccinations steadily growing around the world, some countries are already reopening to the inoculated— their own and each other’s— raising questions of inequality between the vaccine have- and have-nots. 

Israel and China are just two examples of how vaccine passports are becoming a political tool.

Israel, which once had among the highest infection and death rates globally, is now leading the pack in vaccinating residents. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized the “green pass,” an app that credentials inoculated individuals to attend places such as gyms, cultural events, wedding halls, and even concerts. Israel has reached agreements with Greece and Cyprus to recognize it. 

China is also using a digital vaccination certificate to credential the inoculated, and Britain is considering deploying one as well. 

But certifying those who have been vaccinated raises questions about leaving behind those who aren’t. 

“We can’t be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, can’t have the vaccine,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Ethics get even murkier when it comes to international travel. Who recognizes whose vaccine passports? Which vaccines get recognized? And ultimately, who is allowed to travel

As Georgetown University professor and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law Lawrence Gostin stated, “For many low-income countries, most people won’t be vaccinated for many years.”

“Do we really want to give priority to people who already have so many privileges?”